Christmas comes alive at Lee’s Summit Church thanks to local petting zoo

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LEE’S SUMMIT, Mo. — This year’s warmer weather was ideal for live nativity scenes. And at one, Lee’s Summit Church, that scene came complete with goats, sheep and even a camel.

The live nativity scenes at Christmas bring some bonus business to local petting zoos and the one at Lee’s Summit Church was no exception.

Every Christmas Eve, 17-year-old Jake Aswegen gathers up animals on his family farm and heads to church.

“Sometimes we’ll just do a simple goat, but most churches like to have the camel because it brings out everybody’s Christmas spirit I guess,” Aswegen said.

“Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas!” one man was spotted saying to Casper, a three-year-old dromedary camel.

It’s A to Z Exotic Animals, third straight year at Lee’s Summit Community Church, and many people now consider the animals to be part of their extended family.

“We actually brought Casper to my college last year to pet him and have him around for the students,” Laura Wiltshire, home from Westminster College, said.

“It’s great it gives the kids a chance to come out and play with them a little bit and interact, just a fun little experience for them, really cool,” Kyle Seaney said.

The nativity scene carried out with the animals and live actors is then played out again inside on stage, as part of the Christmas Eve service.

“It’s one thing to have the animals but it’s another thing when you connect this story with the bigger narrative and that is the kingdom,” Pastor Travis Bourbon said.

What each person takes away from the experience is different, but these days just about everyone leaves with at least a selfie with Casper.

After visiting six churches this month, Casper gets a much needed break. He’ll chow down on about 15 pounds of hay a day until the busy season for petting zoos starts up again in Spring.

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